With the right slant, posting homeless animals on Facebook can help find any adoptable animal their forever home. Most shelters and rescues have a Facebook page in which they publicize their events, make it easy for people to donate, and showcase their adoptable dogs and cats. If you can write well, posting on Facebook is your opportunity to help find a pet a home.
HOW TO START POSTING ON FACEBOOK
- If your organization has no presence on Facebook, offer to start a page for them.
- If one already exists, let someone on the Board know that you’re willing and available to help. Shelters will often have assigned someone to perform this function, but that person may be overwhelmed with other commitments. Having a second or third person working on the Facebook page may make the task much more manageable for everyone.
- Choose what each person will post. If you’d like to publicize events, then volunteer for that – if your interest is in posting personality profiles for the animal, let them know. If everyone has an assigned role, there is no worry about stepping on someone else’s toes. Maybe your main focus is cats – you’re likely to be good at making their personalities come alive on the page. If you’re going to post personality profiles of the animals, don’t rely on the shelter staff to send you information. Although they know the animal well through daily interaction, they often don’t have the time to pass information along to you. Also, some of them won’t be able to describe the animal with any unique information. (I once dealt with a staff member whose profiles ran along these lines – “dog, brown, 20 pounds, nice”. Not really the stuff of a compelling Facebook post.) Go into the shelter and meet the animals yourself, and compose a post based on your observations as well as those of the staff.
- Beware of inducing “compassion fatigue”. Most animals who end up at a shelter have a sad story behind them. Save the “heart-rending” posts for special occasions – animals who have been at the shelter for a long time, or special needs animals. Don’t pull out the “sob story” guns for each and every dog or cat – repeated use of emotionally charged posts will lead at best to followers not paying attention. At worst, the Facebook page will lose followers.
- How many posts a day? This is a matter for debate among page administrators. My personal opinion is no more than two posts a day, so people don’t get tired of seeing them. Other organizations post multiple times each and every day, and achieve success. Check with the administrator of the page to see what the preferred frequency is of posting on Facebook.
- If you’re going to do event postings, check out Canva.com – there is a free option which allows for lots of designs in order to bring life to the shelter’s events. Make sure you’re using the correct size template, and the colors of your organization’s logo, and design away. Canva is one of the best free resources out there for graphic design.
- If you’re doing personality profiles of the animals, good, clear photos are a must. Don’t worry too much about composition (but do keep the restroom signs out of the background), focus more on showing the animal. Photos that capture something of their personalities are the best, but clear static shots are also fine. Remember, people can and do comment on EVERYTHING on Facebook, whether or not their comments are helpful. Make sure there is nothing embarrassing or questionable (dirty dog dishes, uncleaned kennels) in the background. If you miss this, someone is sure to comment negatively.
- Try and have an angle on each and every post. Repeated posts without humor, or puns, or other distractions become routine after a while and your audience gets bored. For example, if the cat’s name is Dolly, start out your post “Hello, Dolly” and continue for a few words or a sentence with the reference. Or use a beloved children’s book, or a common saying to get started.
- Expect to have to work on this at least a few minutes daily. If you’re going to be on vacation, and can’t post during your trip, make sure you let the other people involved in the Facebook page know so that someone can fill in.
It’s a wonderful feeling when a staff member tells you an adoption happened because of your post!
YOU CAN STILL HELP…..
….even if your organization doesn’t have Facebook, has no interest in starting a page, or doesn’t need additional help with the page.
Just sharing a rescue or shelter’s adoptable animals to your own Facebook page increases visibility and helps give every pet a chance at find their forever home. If you’re a writer (professional or otherwise), you can still visit the shelter and do your own personality profile of the animal with photos and post to your page. Just don’t:
- Get your facts wrong. If you’re not sure of age, don’t guess; if a shelter employee hasn’t told you an animal is dog or cat friendly, don’t say so. It’s better for a shelter pet to wait a little longer for a perfect match than get a bad one and have to start all over again.
- Make any promises. Each shelter has its own procedures for choosing a home for each animal. Some require a home visit, some check out veterinarian references for previous pets. There are dogs who are very friendly, but too much for toddlers or young children – you may not know this as a volunteer. Best to preface your posts with words along the line of “I’m a volunteer with…..and just met this awesome cat named…..”. End with words like “if you want to know more, go visit him at the shelter”. That way you don’t run the risk of speaking for the organization – you are just driving traffic to them.
There is no better feeling in the world than knowing that you’ve played even the smallest part in finding a loving home for a needy animal. And posting on social media is just one of several ways you can help your local shelter.
For more ideas on helping at the shelter, check out my previous post – Volunteering at the Shelter.